The NBA trade deadline has passed, which means we more or less know what teams will look like in the NBA playoffs. There will be a few new faces who join playoff teams, but the bulk of these rosters are in place. With most of the season behind us, we also know who will likely be making the playoffs and seeded highly for a Finals run.
Keeping in mind the trade deadline activity, here are the top ten contenders to take home the title in June.
10. Utah Jazz
The Jazz were ultimately quiet at the trade deadline despite being linked to Memphis guard Mike Conley. In the end, they will go with what they had, which isn’t bad. Donovan Mitchell is a star, and Rudy Gobert is playing with a point to prove after being a quite egregious All-Star snub. They’re not really deep enough to challenge the best of the West, and they don’t really have enough in the way of top-level talent, but they’re good enough to cause a few headaches.
Longtime WNBA executive Kelly Krauskopf is leaving the league’s Indiana Fever franchise to make history in the NBA.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Monday that Krauskopf has been hired as the assistant general manager for the Indiana Pacers. While there are a handful of female executives already in the NBA, she will be the first ever to hold the role of assistant GM. Krauskopf will be working directly with Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard, general manager Chad Buchanan and assistant GM Peter Dinwiddie.
Krauskopf spent 17 years as the president and general manager of the Indiana Fever before relinquishing the GM duties in 2017 to oversee the Pacers’ new esports entry in the NBA2K League. She will no longer be working with the WNBA or esports as she transitions to a full-time role with the Pacers’ front office. Krauskopf has also been part of the selection process for three gold medal-winning USA Basketball women’s Olympic teams.
We recently saw a female interview for an NBA head coaching job for the first time, and Major League Baseball has had two assistant general managers. Krauskopf’s hiring could open the door for other female NBA executives — of which there are currently six — to advance their careers.
Fans and analysts knew this NBA offseason could be crazy, with a number of big-name players potentially changing uniforms — and the league hasn’t disappointed. So far, we’ve seen the unsurprising (LeBron signed with the Lakers), moderately surprising (Paul George is sticking with OKC), and downright stunning (DeMarcus Cousins is headed to the Bay Area).
But the above moves are just scratching the surface of all that’s happened. Other teams improved through the draft and through signing players who aren’t household names but should still make a big impact.
Which squads have made the biggest leap over their 2017-18 iterations? Here’s our take on the 10 teams that have improved the most so far this summer.
10. San Antonio Spurs
The biggest move of San Antonio’s offseason, of course, has not yet happened: the trade of Kawhi Leonard, which seems all but certain to occur. And even though they’ve lost Tony Parker and Kyle Anderson, the Spurs have still had a good summer to date. Marco Belinelli won a title with the Spurs in 2014, and they’re happy to have him back. He was a key piece on the Philadelphia team that at times looked unbeatable late in the season, and he’s one of the league’s best shooters. Snagging him at $6 million a year is a real value. R.C. Buford lucked out landing Lonnie Walker, a cold-blooded creator from Miami, at No. 18 in the draft – one of my favorite picks. He’s shown shades of Dwyane Wade.
Tyreke Evans is arguably the best scoring guard left on the free agent market, and he has drawn interest from several teams. The Indiana Pacers are among those teams, and it sounds like Evans has a decent chance of signing with them.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Tuesday that Evans has a meeting lined up with the Pacers and there is “interest on both sides to get a deal done.”
Free agent guard Tyreke Evans traveled to meet with the Indiana Pacers today, league sources tell ESPN. There’s interest on both sides to get a deal done, but still work to do on it.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 3, 2018
Evans has also been linked to top Western Conference teams like the Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers, but those teams may not have enough money to sign the 28-year-old if he is looking for a sizable contract.
Evans averaged 19.4 points per game in 52 games with the Memphis Grizzlies last season. That mark was the best since his rookie year.
Wednesday’s game between the Pelicans and Pacers was unable to start at its scheduled time do to a malfunction in the arena.
The game at Smoothie King Arena in New Orleans had tipoff pushed back due to water on the floor that was the result of a leak in the roof.
— FOX Sports Indiana (@FSIndiana) February 8, 2018
The Pacers-Pelicans game is currently delayed due to a leak in the roof. pic.twitter.com/73LY56tFSB
— SB Nation (@SBNation) February 8, 2018
As Clifton Brown of The Indianapolis Star points out, safety of the players is of the utmost concern in a situation like this. It goes without saying you can’t take the risk of serious injury because of a fall on a wet surface.
— Clifton Brown (@CliftonGBrown) February 8, 2018
They definitely don’t want a situation similar to what happened with the Lakers a few years ago.
Nothing really makes sense in our world any more. Rookies are playing like ten-year pros, Arthur memes are taking over the planet, and the president is feuding with LaVar Ball. In trying times like these, we need some real and concrete answers about what’s fact and what’s fiction, so let’s start by asking the only question that matters about eight NBA teams that have outperformed expectations to this point of the season: contender or pretender?
The Verdict: PRETENDER
It’s difficult to believe going from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to Avery Bradley and getting slight improvements from the rest of the roster is a viable long-term winning strategy, and that’s probably because it isn’t. As good as Detroit has been, their first 16 games have felt incredibly fluky. Eight of their wins have come by single-digits, and they improved their three-point percentage by over five points from last season despite returning largely the same core. The NBA is fun when bigs like Andre Drummond are rampaging through the competition and dudes like Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith are running circles around everybody. But the Pistons’ own fun may be coming to an end soon.
The Verdict: CONTENDER
Joel Embiid is better than any horror film out there and is playing like a top-ten guy in the league right now. His brilliance has been largely overshadowing the 18-9-8 stat line that fellow ’90s baby Ben Simmons has been hoisting up. The world is also awakening to how good Robert Covington is at the sport of basketball. JJ Redick is looking like one of the more underrated signings of the summer. Indeed, the Sixers are putting up 109 points per game at the NBA’s fourth-fastest pace, and Markelle Fultz (you know, the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft) is still hurt. It’s Process forever and I will not hear otherwise.
The Indiana Pacers have clarified that they do not intend to take any further action against either the NBA or the Los Angeles Lakers stemming from alleged tampering over Paul George.
In a statement from owner Herb Simon, the Pacers clarified that they were satisfied with the NBA’s investigation into the Lakers and are prepared to move on.
“Contrary to a published report, I would like to emphatically state that neither I nor the Indiana Pacers have ever considered any legal action toward the NBA or the Los Angeles Lakers regarding the recent decision and penalty concerning tampering charges,” Simon said in the statement. “We agree with the NBA’s findings and we want to put this issue behind us. Even though the Pacers were put in a tough position, we feel extremely fortunate to end up with two exceptional players in Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Their youth and talent, when coupled with our returning players and other players acquired over the summer, offer tremendous promise for our franchise and our fans.”
It’s a bit odd that Simon would once again take the opportunity to defend what the team got for George — a return that has been criticized by many — but he’s clearly eager to move on and get to work. The Lakers, it appears, will ultimately escape with nothing more severe than a fine.